The Quick & Dirty: Is Engagement Nothing but Activist ‘Sound Washing’?

Henk Campher
| Monday June 16th, 2014 | 5 Comments
Protest signs outside the Sustainable Brands conference.

Protest signs outside the Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego.

By Henk Campher

I’m a recovering activist. From being a trade unionist and anti-Apartheid activist to being an African development worker and running campaigns for Oxfam. Note I didn’t say an ex-activist because you can never be an ex-activist. Activism stays in your blood, and you stay hooked once you get hooked the first time. But I am a recovering activist because I am trying to get over it and working on activism 3.0. We’re in 2.0 right now, but that is a story for another day.

First let me say that not all nonprofits are born the same and neither are all activists born the same. I see activists as the Greenpeace, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, PETA and Rainforest Action Network type and not the Conservation International, WWF or The Nature Conservancy type. This last set is better at running programs on the ground but not so great at running activist campaigns, partly because they work too closely with the business community. And they hardly ever run a campaign that really annoys the living hell out of business. Maybe that should be the main criteria: Have you annoyed business to a high enough level with your campaigning?

Secondly, what I am about to write is not meant to slam these activists at all. They play an absolutely crucial role in society. Without them we will hardly ever see the change needed to build a more just and a “greener” world. Thanks to them we ended slavery; the coffee industry is more equitable; more people have access to much needed medicine; whales are more protected; child labor is outlawed in most countries; and every issue from climate change, to poverty, to animal protection is brought to light each and every day. But just because they are our conscience doesn’t mean they play fair. Or that they should play fair…

However, we do need to call them out when we smell something wrong. And there is one major lie that always gets to me when I hear it. The “let’s engage” lie. No, you don’t really want to engage.

A few weeks back I attended the Sustainable Brands conference down in San Diego and an activist group targeted a major company speaking at the conference.

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Google Partners with U.K. Grocer to Tackle Food Waste

Sherrell Dorsey
| Monday June 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Food waste, food policy, google and Sainsbury, google food waste, google recipe, google food leftovers, global food waste, global food crisis, united nations environmental program, environmental food crisis, Sainsbury food rescue, food justice Google has a strong history of leveraging technology to drastically change human behavior. In recent years, headlines have been flooded with concepts that at once time seemed impossible: driverless cars and high-tech Google Glass. Now, the tech monarch has its sights set on using technology to help curb food waste at home.

In a recent partnership with Sainsbury — a grocery chain in the United Kingdom — Google has released Sainsbury Food Rescue, a new mobile and Web application tool that provides users with ideas for leftover food.

The idea for the interactive site came from Google data that showed search queries for “leftovers” surged by one-third in comparison to last year — 64 percent of the searches deriving from mobile devises.

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Scientists Strengthen Link Between Prolonged Fracking and Large Quakes

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday June 16th, 2014 | 20 Comments

fracking_NW_Colo_TimHurstScientists have known for years that injection site activity for hydraulic fracturing can cause earthquakes. A study conducted by Southwestern Methodist University  and the University of Texas  in 2010 found that there was “plausible” evidence that injection wells were causing earthquakes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

But nine different studies  looking at recent earthquake sites in north, central and south Texas have now confirmed that suspicion. Some of the quakes have been strong enough to damage houses and infrastructure. That includes the most recent swarm of quakes around the city of Azle, where a team of researchers have been mobilized to measure and pinpoint the cause of hundreds of events in the area.  The increase has also alarmed residents in nearby Reno, where residents – including one mom nicknamed “The Digger” for her ability to push the limits on this issue – and the town mayor are stepping to the forefront to call for more investigation into why sinkholes and tremors are occurring near fracking sites.

Now scientists are warning that repeated wastewater injection necessary as part of hydraulic fracturing can increase the chance of quakes in areas where fault lines haven’t been taken into consideration.

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Product Review: SunBell Solar Lamp and Phone Charger

| Monday June 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

SunBell Solar LampThe Bell series of solar lamps was initially designed for the off-grid market, but after you use one of these a few times you’re pretty much hooked, no matter how connected you are. The Norwegian company behind it, BRIGHT Products, sent us a couple of samples to try out last week, and within a few minutes we came up with a laundry list of household uses for the desk lamp/phone charger model that could translate to businesses as well as consumers.

For small or standalone retail businesses, in particular, the Bell series offers an opportunity to add an attention-getting green touch for a relatively modest investment.

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Interview: Bethanie Maples Krogstad, Quid

| Monday June 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

TriplePundit attended Sustainable Brands 2014 in San Diego this month. These videos are part of our coverage. Find the rest here.

At this year’s Sustainable Brands conference I was invited to moderate a panel on big data and how it can be leveraged for sustainability. It’s a wildly complicated subject, but companies like Quid are aiming to help us make sense of it all through clever visualization tools, advanced search engines, and other kinds of engagement. Prior to our panel, I caught up with Quid’s Bethanie Maples Krogstad to learn about exactly what Quid does, and why visualizing big data is relevant to sustainability — specifically the transportation industry.

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Interview: Carrie Majeske, Ford

| Sunday June 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

TriplePundit attended Sustainable Brands 2014 in San Diego this month. These videos are part of our coverage. Find the rest here.

At this year’s Sustainable Brands conference I was invited to moderate a panel on big data and how it can be leveraged for sustainability. One of our panelists was Carrie Majeske, Associate Director of Global Sustainability Integration at Ford. I took some time before the panel to talk about how this conversation was relevant to Ford as well as the automotive sector in general.

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3p Weekend: 10 Companies Committed to Sustainable Palm Oil

Mary Mazzoni
| Saturday June 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments
Palm oil-related deforestation in Indonesia.

Palm oil-related deforestation in Indonesia.

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Palm oil is quickly becoming a hot-button issue in the sustainability space, and for good reason. The growth in palm oil plantations is among the most serious causes of deforestation in tropical regions. (For more on the issue, check out these posts from Phil Covington’s recent trip to Indonesia.)

As consumers become more aware of palm oil-related deforestation, a select few companies are leading the charge and making bold commitments to sustainable sourcing. There’s still more work to be done, but this week we’re happy to give these 10 companies a well-deserved pat on the back.

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Interview: Eric Dominguez, Caesars Entertainment

| Saturday June 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

TriplePundit attended Sustainable Brands 2014 in San Diego this month. These videos are part of our coverage. Find the rest here.

I once sensed irony in pairing the concept of sustainability with a Las Vegas based entertainment empire. But Caesars Entertainment has long been recognized as a leading sustainability reporter as well as a company with a progressive vision. There’s more going on as well. In this interview, Eric Dominguez talks about the big picture at Caesars – energy, water and waste as well as engaging their employees to care and take sustainability seriously.

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Heinz and Ford to Team Up on Rolling Green Tomatoes

RP Siegel | Friday June 13th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Green tomatoesYou could say that, at least until now, cars and tomatoes have basically nothing in common. Tomatoes go from green to red as they ripen, and cars, well, they seem to be getting  greener. As part of this trend, Ford is one of several companies that have been pursuing a viable bio-based plastic that could substitute for the petroleum-based plastics that dominate the industry today. Indeed, as cars continue to reduce vehicle weight in order to improve fuel economy, the use of plastics is becoming ever more common.

Ford formed a collaboration two years ago with Heinz, Nike, Coca-Cola, Procter and Gamble and others, along with the World Wildlife Fund, in the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance. Their stated goal was to develop a 100 percent plant-based PET, a common type of plastic used in soft drink and water bottles.

The intent, from Ford’s perspective, has been “is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.” So says Ellen Lee, a Ford plastics research technical specialist.

Now they have apparently hit pay dirt. In what appears to be a marriage made in heaven, Heinz was looking for an innovative way to recycle and repurpose peels, stems and seeds from the more than 2 million tons of tomatoes the company uses annually to produce its best-selling ketchup.

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Do Perovskites Hold the Keys to Ubiquitous Solar Energy?

| Friday June 13th, 2014 | 0 Comments

What are perovskites? Perovskite is a relatively inexpensive mineral composed of calcium titanate (titanate is a salt composed of titanium and oxygen). It is attracting attention in the renewable energy space for its semiconductor properties.

Perovskite2_-_Perovskite_Hill,_Magnet_Cove,_Hot_Spring_Co,_Arkansas,_USA The Department of Energy announced $10 million in new research and development (R&D) funding for six research teams during the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit 2014 two weeks ago. The teams will use the funds to develop cheap, efficient thermochemical energy storage (TCES) solutions for utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. For at least two of the six, perovskite minerals are to serve as the energy storage medium.

Finding a cheap, efficient means of storing energy produced by CSP plants would be a major milestone for the fast-growing renewable energy sector, and that’s probably an understatement. Perovskites may be more than the key to cheap energy storage for CSP, however.

A class of lamellar organic-inorganic minerals found in igneous and metamorphic rocks, perovskites have generated intense interest among photovoltaic (PV) energy researchers as well.

A semiconductor, perovskite PV cells can essentially be “painted” on to almost any type of surface – flexible or rigid. Solar PV researchers having been making significant strides in boosting the energy conversion efficiency and lowering the cost of producing perovskite PV cells, leading one prominent researcher to assert that they “are poised to ‘break the prevailing paradigm.’”

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How to Fight Greenwashing: The Value of Third-Party Certification in Green Building

3p Contributor | Friday June 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Conference Room - Green buildingBy Elise Hunter

I recently came across a line of roofing tiles advertised as “lower carbon footprint.” This nebulous claim begged a string of questions. Lower than what? How much lower? What scopes of emissions are included in the carbon footprint? Was it verified by a third party? Of course, none of this information was provided, because the statement was a classic example of greenwashing: a claim so vague that it cannot be proven or disproven.

Greenwashing is rampant. Overzealous marketers know that sustainability is gaining importance in the minds of consumers and corporate buyers, and they sometimes make claims that are vague, misleading, unquantifiable, or even completely immaterial to the product or industry. Bogus or unsubstantiated statements like “all-natural,” “eco-friendly,” and even “sustainable” are all too easy to find on everyday products, from cleaners to shampoos to paints.

The green building industry is a hotbed for greenwashing, reflecting the fact that green building is defined by a dizzying array of attributes. These attributes range from the material ingredients and relative toxicity of products, to the environmental impact of material extraction, to the actual performance of the building itself in its energy, water and resource usage.

To tamp down this greenwashing and spur environmental innovation, overarching green building standards such as LEED, Green Globes, and GreenPoint Rated have gained wide prominence. Their aim is to assess the “greenness” of buildings based on a comprehensive set of factors, as determined by third-party auditors. Underlying this building-level recognition are product- or material-specific certifications. Certified products or materials often bear a seal, or “ecolabel.” Architects, developers, designers, and manufacturers can look to these certification programs and ecolabels in order to meet criteria for green building standards.

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Social Media for Social Entrepreneurs

3p Contributor | Friday June 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments

social-media-entrepreneurshipBy Shannon Houde

Social media can be a social entrepreneur’s best friend — a fascinating, engaging best friend, but a demanding one too. How can a busy person make the most of it without becoming its slave? In my work as a sustainability career coach, I’ve learned that social media is the most powerful tool at my disposal to market my services and leverage my brand. It’s definitely not optional. And while it’s easy to use, using it well is not so easy.

Here’s a little about my experience using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blogs to build a sustainability business. I’m no expert, but by sharing what works for me, maybe I can help you gain insight on what might work for you. 

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Burgerville: A Sustainability and Sourcing Case Study

3p Contributor | Friday June 13th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 6.37.32 PMA version of this case study appears in Case Studies in Sustainability Management, The oikos Collection V3. This case study has been modified for length.

By Darrell Brown, Phil Berko, Patrick Dedrick, Brie Hilliard, and Joshua Pfleeger 

Jack Graves is considering buying chicken. More precisely, Jack is considering where to buy chicken. He needs to make a recommendation to the purchasing team soon, and the decision is complicated. Jack is a long-time employee of the Burgerville restaurant chain, a quick-serve restaurant chain in the northwestern U.S.

Burgerville prides itself in being true to its long-held values while maintaining profitability and growth. Graves’ primary job at Burgerville is to assure that the company’s values are embedded in all its actions, including its relationships to its supply chain. His current concern is the dilemma of which values to promote. Burgerville sells chicken, lots of chicken. So the purchase of chicken has significant impacts on the social and environmental impacts of Burgerville’s supply chain. Should Burgerville buy local, with the inherent social and environmental benefits, while paying attention to concerns about labor issues, animal treatment, and non-organic stewardship? Or should it find a supplier with some assurance that these potential problems are eliminated, regardless of location?

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A ‘How-to’ Guide for Successful Supply Chain Collaboration

3p Contributor | Friday June 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment

2879088619_9ff95e7a7d_zBy Elisabeth Comere

Corporate sustainability strategies are evolving and it is no longer enough to get our own house in order. We must look beyond the boundaries of our own operations and consider the social and environmental impacts of the entire value chain from material sourcing through to recycling. This is not a call for altruism, but rather a prerequisite for long term business continuity and a greater competitive advantage.

Over the next 20 years, the global middle class will increase to an estimated three billion putting more pressure on an already fragile and resource constrained environment. It is crucial for companies to shift their mindset from individualistic “wins” to holistic “triumphs” hence, invest into resource efficient value chains with bigger ambitions and better returns. The theoretical approach I speak of is collaboration, a method used to consider opportunities, assess risks, set targets for sourcing, reducing our carbon emissions and material recovery to build a secure and resilient supply chain while creating long-term value for our customers.

To remain competitive and bring long term value to customers, we need to develop new and innovative products while delivering cost and operational efficiencies. We need to support customers to avoid regulatory risks (i.e. packaging bans) and raise public awareness around renewability and recycling in order to increase packaging recovery rates – which will ultimately help further their brand equity. I believe these are needs that not only face Tetra Pak, but many other companies as well. Nevertheless, they are big tasks; none of which can be tackled alone. However if we function in symbiosis with our suppliers, customers, business partners and other stakeholders, we can develop a sustainable supply chain and accomplish our goals.

Establishing effective and sustainable collective actions is easier said than done. Competitive interests, dissimilar organizational cultures, and conflicting objectives are just a few factors that can undermine success. With careful planning, these pitfalls can be avoided.

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Fashion Futures: Resource Constraints and Sustainable Design

| Thursday June 12th, 2014 | 5 Comments

fashion futuresThe fashion business is close to being a $2 trillion industry globally, and with a growing population predicted to reach 9 billion people by 2050, demand for apparel is going to only grow as we head into the future.

The strain on resources to meet burgeoning demand has smart businesses in the industry taking a long-term view as to how the fashion landscape will be forced to change, since those constraints are almost certainly going to disrupt the business-as-usual model we have today, which is often of an industry built around a cheap and disposable product.

So how will peering into the future drive the industry to adapt to growing resource constraints, and how will this impact the design process to make the fashion industry more sustainable? Furthermore, how will the next generation of fashion designers respond, and drive the industry to meet the challenge?

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